Classical Magic

If your children don't know Bach from Beethoven and couldnt care less, then check out these surprising books! Author Marjorie Persons is an absolute genius when it comes to making classical music fun and memorable for students, and even better, she has made it easy for you to share classical music with your children in a way you can handle and theyll enjoy. Composer biographies, classical music history, music trivia, and famous classical works are blended seamlessly together in her books.

Themes to Remember Volumes 1 and 2 and Classical Karaoke for Kids all cover famous composers through the Baroque Period, the Classical Period, the Romantic Period, and the Modern Period. Thats from 1600 to the present, just in case youre fuzzy on your music periods! A helpful timeline of composers is included in all three books, and all of the books are also divided by period, with a short description of that musical period at the beginning of each chapter. Several prominent composers are presented for each period, with one or more of their famous works included. For each composer, a one-page biography is featured, along with a realistic portrait of the composer. Any tricky music vocabulary is printed in bold and defined below. Other relevant information for that musical period may also be included here.

Now its on to the fun stuff! Several of each composers famous works are studied after the composers biography, and these are presented in a very interesting way. The title of the work is listed, and then what looks like a poem about the composer. But wait! Pop in the included CD, turn it to the indicated track number (next to the poem), and listen. The “poem” is actually a set of lyrics to be sung along with a chosen excerpt, or notable “theme” from that work. Because the lyrics reflect on the composer’s life or what the song was about, this is a great memory aid to link the music with the composer and its intended purpose, all in one step! For example, in Themes to Remember Vol. 1, part of the lyrics for the Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music – Overture theme are “Hail, King George, - Hear Royal Fireworks Music – Hear Handel’s music – See rockets flare – Beware, the fire’s – spreading everywhere!” The recordings are very well done, with the help of several professional musicians and vocalists. Two tracks are included for every musical masterpiece featured; one with the words, and one without. You can enjoy the musical theme with and without words, or use the “blank” version as karaoke and sing the words yourselves! Granted, the themes you hear are rather short, but they’re some of the most musically memorable sections, especially when paired with the lyrics. When kids hear the entire work, they’ll doubtlessly recognize the theme and remember the name of the composer and maybe even a little something about the song. Other recommended “Good Listening” selections are suggested at the end of each period’s chapter, with ones that have already been experienced in bold. Appendices at the end of each book include a line of musical notation for each track on the CD, a glossary of musical terms, a bibliography, and an index of composers and their accompanying tracks on the CD. Other nice “extras” include synopses of musical works based around stories (like the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Nabucco, and the Peer Gynt Suite).

With this multi-pronged approach, students travel the entire timeline of classical music, the lives of famous composers, musical terminology, and some of the most famous themes in classical music – and in a way they’re likely to remember for years! Additional suggestions for activities and how to cover the material are included at the beginning of each book if you’re looking for ways to extend the lessons. These books would work very well accompanied by CDs of full-length classical works or biographical/music CDs like the Music Masters. Rounded out with composer activity workbooks, composer coloring books, or additional activities this could be a full-fledged, yet informal music appreciation course to use with the whole family. The books are easy to take on the road, and you can even play some “classical karaoke” in the car. Themes to Remember Vol. 1 is a good place to start to try it out. It features the most well-known composers and a sampling of their most famous works. Themes 2 features many of the same composers (but different works) and some additional, lesser-known composers as well. Classical Karaoke for Kids is slightly different in format. It features some of the most well-known musical pieces of classical music, and suggests that themes be introduced, then “reviewed” karaoke-style. Review questions for each musical period are included at the end of each chapter. Vol. 1 and 2 are now paperback. The Can You Name that Classical Tune? CD features some of the famous themes from Themes to Remember Vol. 1, both with and without words. If you’re not interested in going through the whole book, but would like the experience of “hearing” the lyrics for these famous works, try the CD.

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